Home Leadership The Year of Developing Leaders

The Year of Developing Leaders

by Dr. Bruce Ellis

You have checked your list twice as you prepare for school getting ready to start again. You have planned with your team and prepared your agenda for the first meeting back. You are ready to motivate and inspire as teachers and administrators begin a fresh year. But have you planned to look for teachers and administrators who show qualities that would make them great leaders?

When I was teaching junior high, a friend of mine who was an instructional specialist asked me to consider applying for an opening they had in the Instructional Technology Department. They had asked me to apply for prior openings, but my response was always the same, “I’m enjoying teaching in the classroom. Why would I leave it?” Somewhat convinced that I was planning to retire in the classroom, my friend said he wouldn’t bother me any more about job openings, but still thought I would be a great asset to help a wider audience. Needless to say, I applied and got the position and later rose to be director of the department. In that experience, though, I realized that they had been looking at me for a while and saw something more in me than what I saw.

We have the opportunity to work with so many people on a regular basis. Many of them show great potential in becoming leaders if they had someone to walk along side them and help develop those skills. As Carnegie noted, “The older I get, the less I listen to what people say and the more I look at what they do.” So as you start this new year, here are a few items to add to your list as you go throughout your day.

Look for Talent in Future Leaders

Many folks can talk a good talk, but may lack the skill to put their words into practice. Others, though, may not say much, but are excellent at their work. Make note of these people and what they are doing that is making a difference. For many, it may not be that they received special training, but that it comes naturally to them. These may also be the people who just assume that everyone has these same skills and therefore doesn’t consider themselves as special, gifted, or talented.

Have Open Conversations

When you see skills in others, be sure to let them know that you recognize those attributes and encourage them in using those skills. You may be the lone voice that ignites a desire for them to make a difference on a larger platform. If you have an idea of where that skill may be needed or may be a great asset, then say something like, “You are really good at explaining complex problems in a way that is understandable. Have you ever thought of a job in ____?” By articulating the skills that you see in them and sharing what a possible career trajectory might be for them in making use of that skill, you may inspire them to start considering additional growth opportunities.

A Peek Behind the Curtain

Sometimes we might tell someone that we would like them to come work for us or be in our department. We may even assume that they understand what our department does and many of the details on which we spend our time. Consider being more direct and invite them to shadow you or one of your staff members. You might ask them to help out on a particular project or initiative to give them some exposure to the job and connect with others already in those positions.

Mentor and Connect

When you find someone with skills and talent to develop even further, consider making it a more formal relationship. Let them know that you would be willing to help them gain additional skills and/or develop those skills you have noticed even further. If they are interested, then start considering how you can be a meaningful mentor. And if you find that you would like to mentor, but just don’t have the time or flexibility, the best thing you can do is to be a conduit for the person and help them connect with others that might be interested in their skills. You have contacts that you’ve made throughout your career and can refer them with confidence to specific connections to help them advance and grow.

Who Will You Develop This Year?

Just as you have made it a priority to be aware of other things that are important to you, think about how you can be aware of talent you come across this year and how you can help those folks develop and grow into leaders. So, who will you develop this year? We’d love to hear about how you’ve grown leaders in the past, as well as who you might be working with this year. Email me at bellis@tcea.org and let me know.

You can also share with them some of the events we have going on at TCEA to help them hone various skills, make connections with other like-minded educators, and get “in the know” of additional opportunities that come available. A few of the events include the Technology Acceleration AcademyInnovative Learning Strategies Conference, and the SysAdmin Conference.


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